Pam and I go way back. As a matter of fact, I wrote about my surprising divine appointment with her son (randomly sitting next to him on a plane) as my first published piece ever! She joined me on a ,recent podcast to share her story.
Alcoholism runs in Pam’s family. She used to see her dad hide away in the garage, drinking “something” almost all the time. And when she couldn’t sleep at night, he would give her a shot of whiskey to help her relax.
She drank through high school and college. Then she got married, became a nurse, and eventually joined the staff at church as a worship leader. Somewhere along the way she had four children. But alcohol remained an ever increasingly present companion throughout the years.
How it Got Worse
After having her third child, she was hit with a frightening diagnosis for her new baby. Cystic fibrosis. No cure. Life expectancy: 20 years. They were in and out of the hospital three times in his first seven months of life. Then her oldest daughter was diagnosed with it, too. Double whammy.
Where did she go to help herself relax in her lowest moments? She did what she had been trained to do. Go to the closet and drink. Sneaking booze into the hospital and leaving wine stains in the closets of their home.
She finally admitted to her husband that she needed help. He was supportive of her going to rehab for two weeks (that turned into three months) while he stayed home with their four young kids.
And she got sober. Yay! The End.
Well… not so fast. Six years in, she started to think, “I’m doing so well. I can just have one drink, right?”
Pam and her husband went on a work trip to Hawaii. There she was sitting by the bar. Someone offered to get her a drink. She drank the whole glass.
She could feel her whole body calm.
The beast awakened. She had to have another. She drank a second one. Just then, someone gave her an entire bottle of wine. She had been dangling precariously off the edge of the wagon (in her thoughts) for a while now. Right then, she dropped off the back and rolled into the gutter. It took her years to climb her way back out… (You can read about the importance of our thought life in “,I Changed My Mind“).
All the while, she was working at church, leading worship as if she was still sober. You know where this is going, right?
This leads us to her Most Embarrassing Moment of all time.
It was practice night for the worship team. Pam had stopped at the liquor store and drank a little before practice. She stashed it in her wastebasket, thinking no one would look there. While she was leading the rehearsal, the new janitor walked in with the bottle and said incredulously, “Pam, someone put an open bottle of alcohol in your wastebasket!” Loudly enough so that all could hear, including her pastor (who knew about her “past” drinking problem and thought she was sober).
The worst part is that she tried to walk off the stage and fell down. All. Four. Steps. She was so mortified she wanted to die. Right there. Just end it all.
I can imagine the inner turmoil. Here she was leading other people in worship and singing that God can satisfy – when her life was saying something else. She was telling people to get close to God when her own heart felt miles away from Him. I’m sure the word hypocrite came to mind a few times.
But let’s remember for a minute that none of us is without sin. Everyone in ministry who is not humble, vulnerable, and accountable can fall into the ‘fraud’ category.
It takes tremendous strength to acknowledge our weaknesses.
Have you ever considered that we are the truest reflections of Jesus when we are at our most vulnerable? Think about it; invincible God took on the form of fragile humanity. He started out as a helpless baby, identified with sinners and outcasts, and died a criminal’s death.
But I’m pretty sure she wasn’t thinking of the Godlikeness of vulnerability just then. Actually, the enemy was having a field day with her as she lay at the bottom of the steps. I mean, she wanted to take her own life (thankfully, she had people around to encourage her!).
But God actually used this (and her second most embarrassing moment- which is shared on the podcast) as a wake-up call to help her stop living her dual life.
Looking back on how she backslid years ago, Pam realized the key to her demise. She wasn’t surrounding herself with like-minded people to encourage her and keep her accountable.
The second(ish) time was different. After detoxing, she connected with a recovery group that coincidentally (not really) was down the street from her! The leader was a therapist with 35 years of experience and chock full of practical wisdom. Now, she leads her own recovery group, and has joined Joyful Surrender! What a difference it makes to have people walk through life with you.
She is now appreciating the freedom of worshipping in Spirit (connecting your heart to God) and in truth (your whole life as an act of worship).
She is also learning to understand the value of patience. Slow down. Listen. Wait. Be still. Let God make the plans, while you follow.
It took several years, but God was patient with Pam. God is patient with you, too. And now it’s your turn (see above Lamentations 2:26).
You can hear Pam’s full story on the podcast. We talk about how she did at her son’s wedding (yes, the one who wasn’t supposed to make it to age 20) and her other most embarrassing moments. We conclude the podcast with her tips for success in recovery. Don’t miss it!